buzzbooks217 @ yahoo.com
It's so dark in here.
Foggy’s snoring could wake the dead, Matt thought, his sightless eyes on the ceiling and his mind drifting back through time. On these long nights, the loneliness would pervade. The campus drifted away from you, and you were left in your black world, with only memory as comfort. And as comfort, it was cold, cold.
It was his father that led him down Memory Lane most nights, and tonight was no exception. “Battling Jack” Murdock, they’d called him. The best fighter in the whole world. Even when they were down and out, Matt had looked up to his father with pride. But down and out had begun drifting toward cold and homeless, and Battling Jack was forced to find whatever work he could. Unfortunately, the work he’d found had been that of a Mob enforcer.
“Oh, Dad,” Matt whispered into the black. Foggy’s set was on across the room, competing for decibel levels with Foggy’s snoring. Neither, of course, were that loud … but when you had the kind of hearing Matt had, everything was that loud. Since that moment when he’d pushed that old man out of the way of the truck, that horrible moment when the truck’s contents spilled over the side, and a barrel of radioactive toxins had burst open. That memory cycled in, the last memory where sight was a factor. His eyes … the stuff had cascaded into his eyes…
Matt turned over, trying to rid himself of the memory. It went easily enough, replaced by that same darkness occupied my sounds, sensations, smells and tastes. The toxin that had rendered him blind had increased his other senses a hundredfold; it was God’s way of saying that the scales had balanced, that justice had been meted out. But justice was slippery, and Matt wasn’t sure God had that great a grip on it. Months after Matt had lost his sight, he’d also lost his father. Battling Jack, back in the ring, refusing to throw the fight of his career. So they’d killed him for it.
Justice. You gain super senses, but lose your sight. You gain your pride, but lose your life. You lose your father … and you lose everything.
It’s so dark in here, Matt thought, and I’m so goddamn lonely.
That’s how it had been since Dad had died. Dark and lonely. He’d taken revenge, of course. The men who had killed his father had paid for it with their lives. Those months of training with his mysterious mentor Stick had paid off, had taught him how to hone his senses into something even better than sight. But after that fateful night, facing and conquering his father’s murderers, even Stick had left him.
“Stop it, Matt. You’re not doing yourself any good.”
The TV blared on Foggy’s side of the room: “These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission…”
Grunting, Matt yanked off one of his shoes and, judging by the way the sound bounced off the walls, took aim. His shoe banged against the wall and yanked the plug out of its socket. Blessed silence; more darkness in which to stew in his memories. Silence except…
Foggy’s breathing had changed. Dammit. The shoe against the wall; I woke him up.
“Matt? Izzat you?”
“Yeah, Foggy. Sorry, I unplugged your TV. Didn’t mean to wake you up.”
“It’s okay. My eye hurts, though.”
Matt couldn’t help but steal a small smile. Of course Foggy’s eye hurt. Brad, the guy who’d been riding Foggy ever since the start of semester, had finally saw to it to lay in a shiner on his face, as well. But that wasn’t why Matt was smiling. He was remembering how, the day after the incident, he’d hogtied Brad and left him naked in the snow. He recalled whispering in Brad’s ear how extremely unpleasant his life would be if he wasn’t a whole lot nicer to Foggy Nelson. The only way to get through to bullies was to use a little bit of force. That was one of the first lessons Matt had learned on his own.
“I’ll get you some ice,” Matt said, relishing the small task. Anything to get away from the memories. He came back moments later with an ice pack, making an exaggerated effort to get back to Foggy’s side of the room. Matt could navigate a room he’d never been in before in the dark, just by the way the air currents moved and the heat generated from the walls, but Foggy didn’t need to know that, did he?
He sat next to Foggy on the bed and applied the pack. Foggy let him, not moving to take it from his roommate.
“Thanks, man,” Foggy said gratefully. “Guys like that, like Brad. I don’t know, they’ve been after me my whole life.”
“Why don’t you stand up to them?” Matt asked, thinking about the night he’d faced a man named Slade – a giant of a man who had beaten his father to a pulp – and broken the man in several places.
“Aw, you know how it is,” Foggy said. “When you’re like me … you know, fat like me, you don’t …” Foggy’s voice trailed off. Matt thought he heard a nearly imperceptible sob in his voice.
“What is it?” he asked. Here was something new: concern for Foggy had all but obliterated the past from his mind.
Foggy moved his head, and now he was looking at Matt. “When you’re beaten down as much as I am, you kind of lose the strength to fight back, Matt. Why do you think I want to be a lawyer so bad?”
“Revenge?” Matt asked. That’s all there was to it, then? Revenge?
“No,” Foggy said. “Justice. For every guy like me that the world decides to treat like shit. Big guys. Little guys. Guys that slide through the cracks. I could help people, you know?”
Matt lowered his hand holding the ice pack. Suddenly, he wished very badly that he could see Foggy Nelson’s face. “I know,” Matt said, wonderingly.
“I’m sorry, man. I don’t mean to, you know, bring you down.”
Matt put the ice pack down and clapped Foggy on the shoulder. “You’re not bringing me down.” His hand didn’t move from Foggy’s shoulder. Foggy either didn’t notice or didn’t mind. What? thought Matt, but allowed himself to think no further.
“All my life, I’ve had no one to look out for me,” Foggy said. “I wish sometimes that I had someone. Someone to help me. Make sure I was doing all right. So I didn’t have to feel so …”
“Alone?” Matt asked. He held his breath. Don’t think. Don’t think. The hand not on Foggy’s shoulder brushed against Foggy’s leg, then moved away.
“Yeah,” Foggy said. “Alone.” His voice had changed. Matt closed his eyes. So had his heartbeat.
“I know the feeling,” Matt said, moving his hand back. This time he left it there. “Sometimes it’s like I’m lost. Lost in the dark. I understand alone. Been there most of my life.” He stretched his hand out. Now it rested on Foggy’s leg. Foggy inhaled sharply.
“I’ve never been with anyone,” Foggy said. “They take one look at me, and… It’s over before it starts.”
“What if they weren’t looking in the right places?”
“Someone who couldn’t see…” Foggy said. Another intake of air, and his heart was pounding so hard in his chest, Matt was afraid it would burst. “Well, that would be perfect, wouldn’t it?” His voice trembled. Matt shifted closer.
Don’t think about it, he thought. Don’t think about what it is, what it means. You’re alone. All alone in this world. But you don’t have to be. Do you get that? You don’t have to be alone.
“I see,” Matt said. He could feel Foggy’s warmth through his pajama leg, taste the nervousness surrounding him like a halo. “I see more than you know.”
“What’s happening?” Foggy Nelson asked. “What…?”
“I don’t want to be alone anymore,” Matt said, then leaned in and kissed him. Good lord! Foggy’s heart jackhammered in his chest. His hands jerked up, then clumsily touched Matt’s bare shoulders. He felt Foggy’s heat seep into his skin and relished it. I’m not cold, he thought. It’s not cold in the dark. He tasted the rough surface of Foggy’s tongue, drank in his breath: sensations sweet and vital gone berserk. Who knew a kiss could be this wonderful? Who knew?
They broke apart, heaving breath. Heat radiated from Foggy’s cheeks; whether it was hectic passion or some innate guilt, Matt didn’t know. He did know, however, that when Foggy spoke next, he was smiling.
“Matt, that was … I’ve never…”
Matt smiled himself. “Let’s not talk about it. Not now. Tomorrow, maybe. It’s so dark where I am, Foggy. I just want you to be with me tonight.”
Foggy took a deep breath and released it. “All right, Matt. Tonight. Together.”
As he drew closer to Foggy again, reaching one hand around Foggy’s ample waist and pulling him closer, he thought: Justice. That’s what this is. Justice.
Then all thought was lost in the ecstasy of Foggy’s kiss.